After the attack on Pearl Harbor, American morale was at an all-time low. Discouraged by the damage dealt to the Pacific Fleet and worried about the Japanese military's rapid expansion towards US territories, American leaders needed a raid to bolster their own morale and give the Japanese second thoughts about leaving their home islands unguarded.
Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle developed an extremely risky plan using an untested aircraft taking off from an aircraft carrier on a one-way mission; using a B-25 bomber, which was lightened by removing defensive armaments, radios, and armor plating and then doubling its fuel capacity, the 16 bombers were able to fly the 2,250 nautical miles needed. This reduction in weight also allowed the bombers to take off in the 467 feet they had on the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. The mission would be a one-way mission - the planes would land at bases in China after bombing the Japanese mainland.
The mission, which occurred on April 18, 1942, was a success and while not much physical damage was caused, the surprise of having the Japanese mainland under attack not only forced the leaders of the Japanese military to be more cautious, it also angered the civilians, who had been told that there was no chance of an attack on Japanese soil.
Of the 16 US B-25s, none landed at their intended bases - short of fuel, all either crash landed or the crew bailed out over mainland China, and 11 of the 80 airmen were captured by the Japanese forces.
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